Article VI Blog

"Religion, Politics, the Presidency: Commentary by a Mormon, an Evangelical, and an Orthodox Christian"

United States Constitution — Article VI:

"No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

  • The Shape of Evangelical Political Action, Pawlenty Steps Out (Again), More Palin, More Anderson, just more

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:49 am, July 28th 2010     &mdash      8 Comments »

    What About Evangelicals?

    Last cycle we talked a lot here about how hard it is to put your finger on who are evangelicals and what is evangelicalism.  It’s a theological viewpoint that has spread across multiple religious institutions.  It’s a culture of sorts.  It’s has been a bit of political movement.  Sometimes it’s even an ersatz form of denomination.  We looked last week at an article that wondered who spoke for Evangelicals.  This week sees a post on the diversity of view amongst Evangelicals on something as rudimentary as creationism and evolution.  Some see the Religious Right as strong as ever and some see Evangelicals growing elitist.  And of course, there is a great deal of internal religious debate between the political left and right.

    There is fascinating empirical evidence that freedom and religion go hand-in-hand:  (HT: Instapundit)

    Official Chinese surveys now show that nearly one in three Chinese describe themselves as religious, an astonishing figure for an officially atheist country, where religion was banned until three decades ago.

    The last 30 years of economic reform have seen an explosion of religious belief. China’s government officially recognizes five religions: Protestantism, Catholicism, Buddhism, Islam and Daoism. The biggest boom of all has been in Christianity, which the government has struggled to control.

    All of which brings me to an interesting, if very heady and academic, debate around Godblogging about how Christians should approach changing things:

    As a result of this totalization of politics, the evangelical imagination about how to change the world has been sorely stunted. This was most evident in the recent health care debate, where the only question that was pursued by evangelicals of all ages was which statist solution we should implement to the problems that we face.

    What’s more, rather than being motivated by a vision of the good and by care for the world, evangelical politics, left and right, has—according to Dr. Hunter—been fueled by ressentiment, or a strong sense of injury. So conservative evangelicals are held captive by stories of secular institutions who refuse to allow the Christian worldview into their discourse about the nature of the world, stories which are used well to raise funds, but which reinforce a culture of negation and hostility toward those with whom we differ.

    As a descriptive account of evangelical political culture, this is hard to disagree with. Indeed, the purported leftward shift among my peers away from issues like gay marriage, abortion, and other traditional social conservative issues has been fueled in my estimation less by a serious and substantive disagreement over policy and philosophical issues, and more by the distaste we have at this sort of political world.

    And yet.

    There is a danger in describing the political culture of evangelicalism to relativize the political theories that motivate evangelical political action. In other words, because conservative and liberal evangelicals are both driven by anger and a sense of injury, which option we choose is irrelevant for solving the problem of a totalizing politics. Though I don’t think Dr. Hunter would agree with this, it’s not hard to interpret his book that way.

    Very interesting points, but I want to put my two cents in on something that I see few addressing.  Religious political action is not nearly as effective as most would like it to be.  In presidential politics that we follow here, the best it seems to be able to do is spoil – it cannot act decisively.  Like a petulant child, tantrums can be thrown, but nothing positive seems to be accomplished.  Some of this is the result of acting out of a sense of injury and anger as described above, but much of it also stems from the relative lack of institutionalization that marks the current state of Evangelicalism.

    The statistics on the mainline protestant denomination (Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists…) are frightening – they are shrinking.  Recently, even Baptists, who are very loosely affiliated, are showing a bit of a decline.  What is growing are completely independent congregations – what I have come to call entrepreneurial churches – almost all of which are evangelical in outlook.  This is a problem for political action.  There is a debate about whether they are in competition with denominations.  I am not sure they are on a religious level as most functional denominational congregations are turning very evangelical in style and outlook.  As a resource, a new site – Patheos – is looking into the future of the denominations. (HT: Kruise Khronicle)  Some find the lack on institutionalization in the entrepreneurial, evangelical church problematic.

    Which brings me back to political action.  These entrepreneurial, evangelical churches are often idiosyncratic and personality driven.  The typically result becasue an individual is identified as “a leader” and he hangs up a church shingle, as it were, and builds a church.  Often this leader identification happens in the context of another congregation, driven by another personality, and the new church forms out of a schism of some sort.  In other words, these are people that are not good at large movements, they are good at carving out niches’.  Put plainly, they make herding cats look easy.

    Successful political action by Evangelicals, who are mostly entrepreneurial has occurred when they have joined an effort that is underway, like when they joined with Roman Catholics and Mormons in the Prop 8 fight.  They just cannot organize themselves sufficiently to take a lead role.  As a denominationalist myself, I hope this bodes well for the denominations.  At the moment we seem to continue to tear ourselves apart, but the need for organizational capability does give me hope.

    What this observation says is that the approach to Evangelicals that was whispered by the Romney camp a few weeks ago (not so much “punt” as the media would have it, but come join us, we are not going to court you) makes a lot of sense.  A national candidate cannot court that many niches.  But they can unite behind parade that is moving in the same direction they are.  That is essentially what Reagan did in 1980.

    There will be some petulance from those that expect to be courted and there will be some tantrums from the unenlightened Mormon-bashers, but all in all this cycle will look very different from the last if one gets past the vitriol and looks at the general trends.  Be sure and read past teh deadlines.  Which brings me to…

    Pure Politics

    Tim Pawlenty has been making a big splash in the last week or so.  The Fix, Politics Daily, and Dan Balz all saw fit to discuss it.  Pawlenty is very much where Romney was this time last cycle, minus the religious baggage.  However I think Romney’s now large name recognition and the fact that the religious baggage is out of steam means that Pawlenty will never get enough traction to go very far.  He’ll finish second unless Palin or Huckabee actually run, but I just don;t see him making an impact this cycle.

    Sarah Palin is the top Republican Candidate is how Politico sees it.  Some think she is the ultimate running mate for Romney.  (Nice note on Huck’s role last cycle in that one too) Interesting idea, but I honestly think she has no desire for the second slot.  Some think Republicans are bigger misogynists than they are Mormon haters.  The later is an opinion that lends a great deal of credence to the survey CBS reports here:

    If former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin decides to jump into the 2012 presidential race, liberals would be thrilled, an unofficial poll released today shows.

    As we have said, the left-leaning media will do whatever they can to prevent a Romney candidacy.  He is the most serious of the bunch and is the hardest “target.”  (I’d love to know what JournoList has to say about Romney?)

    Jeb Bush is not running. *Yawn* Only surprizing to silly people.

    Romney looks like Ted Danson. *Double Yawn with a Smirk*  In other Romney news, the Boston Phoenix, which typically misses no opportunity to make Romney look bad, analyzes proposes changes to the primaries, reasonably, if only in the concluding paragraph.  (Ignore the headline.)  Chris Cilizza names Romney’s “inner circle.“  There have been intimations that last week’s Palin crack emanated from this circle – NONSENSE!

    Finally, a local Utah columnist looks at last week’s impenetrable Anderson/Volokh post and concludes that Romney will still have to deal with his faith this cycle.  Yes he will, but it will play very differently than last time.  The charges will come almost exclusively from the left and they may, if played properly serve to unite the right against a common foe.

    And on a final note…

    …and speaking of Mormon stuff, I found this interesting.  Faith an immigration is going to get really interesting, and I think the current administration may try to use it to divide us like Huckabee used the Mormon question last cycle.  Beware.

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    What We Have Here…

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:30 am, July 22nd 2010     &mdash      9 Comments »

    …Is Spin Passing For News!

    And yes, that is most definitely a “failure to communicate,” he said completing the famous and almost trite movie quotation.

    Breaking from his vacation, as I am from mine, my friend Hugh Hewitt points out, in this week of way too much race-based news:

    Did any of the JournoList participants rebuke Spencer Ackerman’s suggestion that Fred Barnes or Karl Rove be made a target of a manufactured “racist” charge?

    Ackerman will be carrying the burden of that despicable suggestion for the rest of his “career” such as it is, but it may even be worse to have been a participant in the list and to have said nothing when such an assault was proposed.  Even if the “journalists” on the list hated Karl Rove as an extension of Bush and thus talked themselves into this repulsive group-think, many of them know for a fact that Fred is among the most decent and large-hearted of journalists.  To have said nothing when a colleague or far worse, a friend, was nominated for the worst sort of slander is an extraordinary personal failure.  Whether any of those who were party to it step forward to apologize will be interesting to watch.

    [...]

    When Andrew Breitbart posted the NAACP video, he did not know it had been edited. Journalists who commented on the story did not know of the editing either.

    But everyone on JournoList knew that Ackerman was proposing a Big Lie in the service of a political agenda –Ackerman admitted that himself– so they all stood by and said nothing. The only defense that any of them have is that Ackerman was an insignificant loon or that they missed his post, even though it appeared in the middle of the biggest story of the time period.

    Just this morning, over my hotel breakfast, FoxNews was discussing newly leaked JournoList postings from campaign ’08 trying to paint the Palin VP nomination as “sexist.”

    There are two terribly important lessons for this blog that can be taken away from this scandal and the USDA atrocities of the week.

    The first is that the press, at least a significant portion of it, is all too willing to discuss the use of label/identity based spin to aid the Democratic side of the aisle.  It confirms something that people have known all along.  The lack of discrimination is born not in monitoring the use of identity labels, but in being blind to them.  When considered, whether in base discrimination, such as Jim Crow, or in the type of “reverse discrimination” we are seeing from the JournoList crowd they are political weapons, and they are poltical weapons that our common understanding, and in some cases our constitution place off limits.

    Religion is one of those identity labels that our constitution places strictly off limits.  The reason for that is very straightforward – all it can do is serve to create conflict when what we need is the finding of common ground to move the nation forward.  The USDA events of the past week show that the opportunity for mischief with identity factors is just too great to use them AT ALL.

    Which brings me to this very interesting piece by Kenneth Anderson on the Volokh Conspiracy (HT: a reader that sent it forward.)  Anderson argues that there are some things about religion that should be a part of the public discourse:

    But of course, the problem is how to parse the difference between that which is acceptable for inquiry concerning someone who proposes to lead the polis and what is genuinely personal and irrelevant.  My one regret is that the nasty fireworks at the beginning of that long essay tend to obscure the quite serious argument about how to draw those lines that occupies the second half.  (It is not, by the way, a regret for having ridiculed the two principals — I think that it is important, actually, for people to understand the affective side of this and not pretend that it is purely mild cognition, and that was one way to do it.)  But this issue is going to resurface, certainly with Romney, and with others.  The problem, at its most general, is that religion bears certain characteristics of immutable characteristics, like race or ethnicity — marks of identity that one could not change about oneself, but which — again, like skin color — are morally irrelevant, and so cannot, by themselves, be cause for either accepting or rejecting a person as a political leader in a liberal society.

    But religion also has a cognitive content — including doctrines — that are and should be subject to reasoned discussion.  The believer who partakes of them as doctrines of faith might not do that, and might not be able to do that, almost by definition.  Yet it would also be a mistake to draw too sharp a line between things subject to human reason and things not of this world and so not subject to human reason; particularly law-based religions partake of both.  Mormonism, for that matter, incorporates this directly into its prophetic traditions  And despite being a thoroughly lapsed Mormon, and so not in the sense that I would presume instruct Mormons on the doctrines of their faith, but rather as a descriptive statement that I do not believe that the elders of the Church would regard it as an accurate statement of the faith, though of course I might well be corrected on that — I would say that Romney’s statement on this matter is not particularly an accurate reflection of Mormon doctrine.  Mormon doctrine regarding human reason is not, so far as I have been able to comprehend, “relativistic” in the sense used in contemporary ethical argument, even if it is more elastic some (including me) would accept.

    But irrespective of whether believers are able to participate in the discussion of human reason and prophetic traditions, when adherents go out to offer leadership in the broader political community, then the unbelievers are perfectly warranted to ask that they be discussed in terms that are accessible to public discussion.

    Yes, indeed, religion does have a cognitive element, but unless a candidate or elected official insists on making policy based on their religious conviction, why is it necessary to discuss?  All that is really necessary to discuss is the proposed policy, and the stated reasons for bringing it forward.  The attachment of a religious labels, as with race or gender, to either the proposer or the policy itself serves only to turn the reasoned discussion into the kind of vitriolic posturing that we have seen based on race in the last week.  We have seen some very bad decision making based on such labels and we are seeing the public manipulated based on similar labels – they simply do not aid our public discourse.  If reasoned discussion is the goal and the labels serve to override reason rather than aid it – why inject them into the conversation at all?

    I am reminded of a Sunday school class I was in a couple of decades ago – it was being taught at the highest levels by a seminary professor of excellent repute.  We were discussing theories of the atonement and at one point a student rose and asserted that the professor’s view of the atonement was “too masculine.”  I objected in the most strenuous of terms and set forth the proposition that I am emphasizing here today.   The theory of the atonement is neither masculine nor feminine, it simply is truth.  Yes, men and women my arrive at that truth by different paths, but that matters not, what matters is that we arrive at the truth – together.  Inserting the labels serves only to make the truth relativistic.

    When it comes to public policy, what matters is that we arrive at the best possible policy.  People will come to their policy choices by a variety of methods and thought processes.  By definition, there cannot be different policy for one group or another – that is the definition of discrimination.  Therefore, group identity entering the discussion serves no purpose other than to prevent arriving at a policy at all, or to arrive at a policy that, rather than providing maximum benefit for the most people, benefits mostly the group that can best claim victimization – again, the very definition of discrimination.

    In a week of claim and counterclaim based on race, I am deeply saddened that in many ways our nation is no different than it was when I was a child spending summers with extended family in Jim Crow Mississippi.  But we have clung to our labels too hard.  We have to let go of them.

    Lowell adds . . .


    Professor Anderson’s Volokh post is remarkable on more than one level.  I do not think it will move the discussion much, because it is mostly impenetrable.  Consider these two statements:

    The problem, at its most general, is that religion bears certain characteristics of immutable characteristics, like race or ethnicity — marks of identity that one could not change about oneself, but which — again, like skin color — are morally irrelevant, and so cannot, by themselves, be cause for either accepting or rejecting a person as a political leader in a liberal society. . . .

    And despite being a thoroughly lapsed Mormon, and so not in the sense that I would presume instruct [sic] Mormons on the doctrines of their faith, but rather as a descriptive statement that I do not believe that the elders of the Church would regard it as an accurate statement of the faith, though of course I might well be corrected on that — I would say that Romney’s statement on this matter is not particularly an accurate reflection of Mormon doctrine.

    Each one of those is a single sentence.  I teach young lawyers that if a sentence must be read more than once by an educated reader to be understood, the writer is in trouble; more than twice, and the sentence should be rewritten.

    But enough about style.  Anderson’s post is a dogged argument that it is desirable – nay, necessary and proper - to make a candidate’s most private religious beliefs matters of public discussion and inquiry.  We have rejected that argument on this blog dozens of times, so I won’t rehash those posts.  I’ll simply refer our readers to John Mark Reynolds’ analysis, which John and I think is the perfect approach. Here’s a summary:

    Freedom of religion does not mean I have to think every religion or irreligion is great! In fact it is demeaning to religion to behave this way. My Catholic friends know that I think the Pope is not the sole head of the Church and my Baptist friends know I think their view of the Eucharist inadequate. They honor me by strongly disagreeing with me. If I thought these ideas had public policies implications that would lead to bad social policy by the state, I would want to examine the views of any Catholic of Baptist politician.

    That is not bigotry, just common sense.

    So if we assume religious traditions are, at least in part, knowledge traditions, then being wrong about religion does matter. How wrong does one have to be before losing credibility in the public square?

    Let me propose a few tests and suggest that Mormonism easily passes all of them.

    First, the religious beliefs of the candidate should be held by a significant number of people and by a group willing to defend them (even if unsuccessfully) in a rational manner. . . .

    Second, the group in question should not have religious claims that will naturally lead to horrific, or at least far out, public policy. . . .

    Third, the group should have a long track record of generally playing by republican rules in areas where it is dominant. No group is perfect, but the Presidency is too powerful a prize to trust to a new group that might have secret authoritarian leanings.

    If you want to know why Prof. Reynolds thinks Mormonism passes all three tests, read his post.

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    Romney/Palin, Angle/Reid, and a bit more….

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:11 am, July 20th 2010     &mdash      12 Comments »

    Greetings from vacation!

    Romney/Palin – The Left Will Not Let It Die…

    Last week’s left created Romney/Palin psuedo-dust-up sure did catch the attention of the leftie punditry.  Steve Kornacki of Salon basically said that Romney was a misogynist.   There was a response from Allahpundit,  but Andrew Sullivan (yes I am about to say something nice about him) had the most salient observation:

    If policies come up during debates, and she gives the same answers she gives on Fox now, and Mitt Romney pounces on her, the story will not be that the GOP’s frontrunner gave a pallid answer. The story will be that Mitt Romney pounced. What does this do to his image? What does Mike Huckabee have to say about it?

    This entire episode from its ill-defined inception until now is designed, by a left leaning media, to cast the race first as Romney v Palin and secondly do whatever they can to divide Republicans.  And in some circles, it is working to some extent.

    There are serious candidates – Romney, Pawlenty – probably serious candidates – Thune – wannabe serious candidates – Daniels – and then there are media serious candidates – Palin, Gingrich and Huckabee.  Look at those names.  The “media serious candidates” all carry serious baggage and they all represent only a portion of the Republican/conservative movement.  Of course the portions they represent are the portions the media and the left love to use to describe the entire movement and they are the most divisive portions.  They are also portions that cannot possibly win general elections – which is why the left likes those names so well.  If any of those people run, it will be for building their personal media cred.

    Amongst the serious, Romney is clearly the frontrunner and he continues to straw poll well.

    Now, what is amazing about all this  is that Romney’s religion has not come up.  By even mainstream denominational Christianity standards, Mormon complimentarian views about the genders might be considered a bit archaic if being kind and sexist if not.  When you have people at Kos writing stuff like this:

    The greatest value in the book is Zaitchik’s patient exploration of the affect Beck’s conversion to Mormonism has exerted on his politics and beliefs, but also on his methods of message of delivery. Beck has managed something fairly difficult in the presentation of his schmaltz to the audiences he’s dog-whistling: he’s using the tried and true confessional style of his chosen religion to rope in evangelicals and even more secular (but teary-eyed) members of the hard right. This is no small feat, as Mitt Romney can testify; many on the right are not all at ease with Mormonism, and Beck’s bridging of its style with old-fashioned knee-jerk patriotism is part of his unique appeal.

    You’d think they would feel compelled to make a big deal out the CJCLDS view on the role of women.  Of course, I doubt this conversation is over.

    Angle/Reid…

    Nothing, and I repeat nothing, could be better for America at this present electoral juncture than the defeat of Harry Reid in Nevada.  Therefore, it pains me to point out that his opponent, Sharon Angle, is seemingly going out of her way to assure him of victory.  GetReligion discusses a Las Vegas Sun story on Angle:

    Republican U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle describes her motivation for seeking elected office as a religious calling.

    Politics, including her bid to unseat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, is God’s purpose for her life — one he has long been preparing her for, she says.

    “When God calls you, he also equips you and he doesn’t just say ‘Well, today you’re going to run against Harry Reid.’ There is a preparation,” she said during a recent interview on the Christian Broadcasting Network. “Moses had his preparatory time. Paul had his preparatory time. Even Jesus had his preparatory time, and so my preparation began on a school board.”

    GR even has the video.  I am reminded of the numbskull in Idaho a few months back that convened all the Mormons in the area.  We chastised him and now, well….

    Dumb, dumb, dumb.

    But the press should be vilified for reporting this and not Reid’s Mormonism, particularly give the treatment Mormonism got last presidential cycle.   I guess its not really the religion, but the political views and party affiliation of the candidate that matter when it comes to religion as a political weapon.

    General Religion Stuff…

    Scary Graph

    Good Question

    But in closing, let us reprint a C.S. Lewis quote posted by Godblogger Justin Taylor yesterday:

    I am a democrat [proponent of democracy] because I believe in the Fall of Man.

    I think most people are democrats for the opposite reason. A great deal of democratic enthusiasm descends from the ideas of people like Rousseau, who believed in democracy because they thought mankind so wise and good that every one deserved a share in the government.

    The danger of defending democracy on those grounds is that they’re not true. . . . I find that they’re not true without looking further than myself. I don’t deserve a share in governing a hen-roost. Much less a nation. . . .

    The real reason for democracy is just the reverse. Mankind is so fallen that no man can be trusted with unchecked power over his fellows. Aristotle said that some people were only fit to be slaves. I do not contradict him. But I reject slavery because I see no men fit to be masters.

    That dear friends are words worth deep consideration.

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    Sorta Silly Season

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:42 am, July 16th 2010     &mdash      3 Comments »

    We noted Monday that as the mid-terms draw near, the discussion of 2012 is heating up.  Seems like there is another thing driving discussion and it’s silly, just because it is meaningless at this juncture.  PACs issued their financials on schedule this week and that set the world buzzing.  This is a very leftie analysis of the releases, but it is the only one I could find that touched on most of the majors – ignore the commentary, follow the links and look at the numbers for yourself.  I shouldn’t bother, but one shot is too rich not to take.  Consider:

    “They’re not interested in necessarily winning the House and Senate back for Republicans. That’s not their No.1 objective,” said Daniel Smith, a University of Florida professor who directs the political campaigning program there. “They’re selectively placing their bets, using their PAC dollars on Republican candidates who can elevate their national profile and also procure free media in key battleground states in the run-up before the 2012 Republican primary.”

    Well, the incumbent Democrat gets more free media than the rest of the world put together AND when it comes to not helping congressional candidate in his own party, this guy’s a champ!  Come on, this is politics as usual – why are we trying to cast it as a problem?  Robert Costa on The Corner did look at Palin, Romney and Pawlenty.

    Palin Got The Most Attention…

    I still don’t think she is running, but her fund raising is impressive (even though Romney out-raised them all) – which caused a lot of people to conclude she was.  Including this bit of analysis obviously designed not to be helpful but to make trouble:

    Assuming that the race is then reduced to Palin and Romney, the next critical state primary is South Carolina. At that point, I don’t think the specifics really matter. The fact is that the Republican Party of 2012 is not going to nominate a Mormon as its standard bearer. And the more important fact is that the base of the Republican Party doesn’t just favor Sarah Palin, they love her. She is their standard bearer. And they will not — this time around — be denied.

    Please note, the presumption is that Republicans are close-minded bigots.  That bit got someone at Right-O-Sphere pretty worked up, causing them to ask, “Should Mormons Abandon the Republican Party?“  OK – initial response, “For What?”  Yes, there are jerks in the party – but there are jerks everywhere, and in leaving the party all you do is let the jerks win.  Not to mention there is no other party that comes even close to representing your point of view, dear Mormon friend.

    But also note this, the jerks are not a majority.  Romney keeps winning straw polls, and anecdotal polling shows Romney’s support is much broader than his faith.  In other words, as we predicted Monday, lefties/Dems are terrified of an Obama/Romney race and they are going to punch the religion ticket as many times as they can to try and change the odds.  Don’t take the bait – this time the jerks are behind the woodshed, and in the primary we can administer the spanking.  Here is why the left fears Romney:

    Former supporters of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign who do not approve of his job performance favor former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney over the rest of the GOP field, according to a new Public Policy Polling survey.

    They fear Romney so much that one of their big guns (Mark Halperin) decided to stir the pot:

    One adviser to Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, and, by traditional standards, the putative 2012 frontrunner, says of Palin, “She’s not a serious human being.” Another Romney intimate warns, “If she’s standing up there in a debate and the answers are more than 15 seconds long, she’s in trouble.”

    So, we have two entirely unattributed quotations of “advisers.”  You know, if Romney reads this blog, and I think he has from time-to-time, I guess I am an adviser too.  And since I have met him I guess I am an “intimate” as well, so does what I say on this blog define the stance of the Romney camp?  Not hardly!

    There is also the issue of context.  I am far from alone in thinking Palin is not running. It is really only in the fevered imaginations of the MSM that there is serious hope she will run.  It is quite possible that these sound bites came in the broader context of discussing the unlikelihood of her running and in that context are not nearly as pernicious as they sound quoted here.  As we, and many others, have said all along -  Palin is a marvelous voice for an important wing of our movement, but that does not necessarily translate to a presidential candidacy.

    What we have here is is a case of Halperin trying to create a rift inside the Republican coalition – especially between the Tea Party and the rest of the party.  We don’t know who these people are, how close they really are to Romney, or anything else other than they conveniently said something that would create problems, conveniently in the hearing of Mark Halperin.  I’m not putting much stock in this.  Why Allahpundit thinks its worth this much analysis is beyond me.

    UPDATE AFTER POSTING: Seems Romney Agrees with this analysis.  Today he tweeted:

    “TIME says unnamed advisors disparaged @SarahPalinUSA. Anonymous numbskulls. She’s proven her smarts; they’ve disproven theirs.”

    BACK TO THE ORIGINAL POST:

    The left is also very worked up about the WaPo Op-Ed that Romney wrote, which we noted a couple of weeks ago, on the proposed new START Treaty.  Look, foreign policy is not our thing here, so I will not even attempt to round up this discussion, but it has been broad and it has been vitriolic.  I will; however, link to this particular argument against the treaty – when I saw the publishers I laughed out loud.  ‘Nuff Said.

    In Other News…

    Gingrich is seriously thinking about running?  Read:  Gingrich’s “q” needs a jolt.  That does not mean he will not run, just means that if he does, it will be for reasons other than to win the nomination.  By the way, I am all for Christian forgiveness, but there is a streak of anger out there, still, at Gingrich’s personal behavior that runs pretty deep.  He needs to tread very carefully.

    Clear bigotry:

    A North Carolina pastor was relieved of his duties as an honorary chaplain of the state house of representatives after he closed a prayer by invoking the name of Jesus.

    I’ve heard a lot of legislative prayers from religious leaders of many stripes.  If one goes, they all gotta go since they all invoke their deity.  I’ve heard Vishnu and Allah just to mention a couple.

    Moderation disguising a pro-Obama rant.  The court is allowed to change its mind, you know.

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    Couldn’t It Wait Until December?

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:45 am, July 12th 2010     &mdash      11 Comments »

    Tradition has it that the presidential election cycle unofficially begins after the mid-terms – but not this time.  As a massive move towards the GOP seems more and more apparent in the mid-terms, people’s minds are turning to what that means in terms of POTUS 2012.  That’s not entirely unreasonable, but given that Romney remains firmly in the mix, what is unreasonable is that the Mormon shots are starting to abound.  I really thought we’d be over it this cycle, but if the sheer number of hits our many internet-combing robots are getting is any indication, it’s not going to be pretty.   The discussion currently really has four epicenters -

    The Idiot, Bill Keller…

    I am through being civil with this guy, he’s just a media whore, pure and simple.  He never comes up unless he puts out a press release which he did this week.  This time he is attacking Beck, not Romney, but it is just more of same.  Needless to say, this bit of stuff stuck to the bottom our our shoes was picked up and passed on.  Keller’s antics would be funny if they weren’t so pathetic – and predictable.

    Seems like any time there is a media storm surrounding a widely known Mormon, Romney in 2008 and Beck now, Keller starts putting out his press releases and trying to gin up some new names on his mailing list so he can continue to solicit donations.

    In this instance, he charges Beck with “lying” because Mormonism itself is a lie.  Rarely have I seen such a myopic, self-absorbed, needless to say self-aggrandizing, view of belief and faith.  By definition people believe their faith to be true, which means all others are false.  Until a specific faith can be proven true (now there is a tall order)  a claim like Keller’s defies reason.

    From this point forward, unless he takes a specific shot at Romney that makes sense, Keller is Persona Non Grata around here.  I am embarrassed that most people think he and I are of the same faith.

    The Financial Times…

    did a piece on the changing face of Mormonism. (registration required)  The piece is not all bad, but it fails to even directly pose, let alone answer, the essential question that lies at its heart.  The article is about the amazing success being enjoyed by many Mormons in many fields of endeavor.  But in its early stages it talks about Romney’s religion problems in ’08.  It demands that one ask, “Why are Mormons so successful at so many things, but NOT at running for POTUS?”

    Of course, if we could answer that the country would likely be in a very different place than it is at the moment.

    The Discussion Around the Boston Globe Piece Continues…

    We talked about it last week, but typically it takes people a while to catch up to us.  A Mormon I have never heard of thinks the proposed strategy makes sense.  Meanwhile, Mark Silk seems to think it’s all wrong.  Silk’s analysis discounts a number of pertinent factors like the Tea Party movement and  the fact that people can, and likely will in the current climate, have a very different idea about what matters in the next election cycle.

    Silk is right that the Romney campaign has to acknowledge the differences between Mormonism and traditional Christianity, but to ask Mormons not to call themselves Christians is simply to ask too much.  That is like saying, “I’ll vote for a socialist provided they don’t really believe that stuff.”

    Evangelical numbers remain impressive, but they are not going to be concentrating on social issues next cycle.

    David Frum Makes Trouble…

    Of course, that in and of itself is hardly news.  He starts by putting forth Jon Huntsman as “the Mormon.“  – Old, tired, not buying it.  Huntsman took himself out of the hunt (pun intended) when he took the China ambassador job.  Do you honestly think anyone that has worked for Barack Obama is going to get the Republican nomination in 2012?  Be real!

    But then Frum had to go and call out Mike Huckabee.  He specifically called out the Huckster for his use of religion last time:

    Faith-based politics is fine. But Huckabee’s support in 2008 often seemed sectarian. He says his words were taken out of context, but at least once in the campaign he seemed to criticize Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith. This too-narrow religious appeal offended not only many American Mormons, but also a much larger group, Catholics, who readily inferred: “Huckabee, a Baptist, seems to disapprove of Mormonism as non-Christian. What must he think of us?”

    This, unsurprisingly, drew a rise out of Huckabee – who deigned to write Frum personally.   EFM has tackled the facts pretty well and later added more to the mix.

    Given the vitriolic reaction we have seen on this blog from former Huckabee staffers, and now Huckabee’s personal response to similar accusations, it seems to me that Huckabee wants to do whatever he can to try and erase the record of his obvious playing of the religion card in Iowa in 2008.  The inherent dishonesty in such efforts is what really gets under my skin.  Instead of owning up to the mistake – the Huckster “apologizes” but denies he really did anything wrong.  We analyzed this completely when we did our review of the 2008 cycle.

    That’s a lot of Romney/Mormon stuff when the mid-term general is just heating up – a whole lot.  One must wonder if it is the issue in its death throes or a portent of things to come.  If one analyzes the sources for the noise, one sees that the trouble seems to be coming from the left – Huckabee did not raise the issue, he tried to run away from it – Frum caused the stir.

    I think what we are seeing is this – Romney is rapidly emerging as presumptive.  If it was entirely a party insider vote, it’d be done.  The only reason there is a window for others is the party insiders are concerned about whether they can convince the rank-and-file on Romney.  Romney’s credentials on the economy are overwhelmingly good – no one comes close.  The economy is likely to be issue #1 come 2012 which puts Obama in a very precarious position against Romney.  The left wants to kill a Romney candidacy before there really is one because they only have a chance in ’12 if the Republican candidate is not Romney.

    So, I think we are going to see a lot of Mormon stuff this cycle, but I think it is going to be more like what we expected last cycle.  It’s going to emanate almost entirely from the left in an effort to stir up divisions on our side.  This is why the proposed Romney strategy of more-or-less punting the hardcore social conservative vote makes a great deal of sense.  If Romney pursues that group he emphasizes a division the other side wants to open up – a division he wants to close.  Better to operate as the presumptive and let them come alongside because they will have little choice if they want a seat at the table.

    So, watch the sources when the issue arises, chances are it will be nutbars like Keller or lefties.  Look for Huckabee to keep his head low on the issue, but watch the undercurrent (comments, etc.)  Look for lefties to be making comments on the internet where ever they can, trying to stir the issue, and they will pose as Republicans to do it.  Call them out and fight back.

    Meanwhile, In Other Romney News…

    A bunch of very left-leaning Republicans are “wishy-washy” on Romney.  So where’s the news there?

    And this headline just warms my heart:

    Romney, Dobson help Hoekstra in Mich. gov. race

    I really do like seeing those names linked.  Now, if we can just keep Dobson from stepping on himself….

    PALIN!…

    …For RNC Chair makes an enormous amount of sense to me.  She is just not a serious candidate, but she is a valuable political asset to our side.  Polarizing?  Yeah, as a candidate, but as party chair she could solidify a link between the party and the Tea Party.  Her fund raising capability is enormous.  Polarization is also energy and that is a large part of what a party chair is supposed to do – generate energy in the party.   This idea strikes me as allowing us to get the best of what Sarah Palin has to offer while being able to largely ignore her weaknesses.

    Steele has to go and hiring Palin has all the plus side stuff Howard Dean offered the Dems without the foot-in-mouth disease.

    General God Stuff…

    “On Faith” asks a question only a non-believer could ask.

    The Dalai Lama, who just celebrated his 75th birthday, often refers to the ‘oneness’ of all religions, the idea that all religions preach the same message of love, tolerance and compassion. Historians Karen Asmstrong and Huston Smith agree that major faiths are more alike than not.

    But in his new book “God is not One,” religion scholar and On Faith panelist Steve Prothero says views by the Dalai Lama, Armstrong and Smith that all religions “are different paths to the same God” is untrue, disrespectful and dangerous.

    Who’s right? Why?

    As we discussed above, believers must, by definition believe in the bottom-line truth of their faith, and therefore the less-than-truth status of others.   Otherwise, they do not truly believe what they claim to believe.  The idea that “all religion is the same”  is designed not to do away with religious conflict, but to do away with religion itself.  That’s part of what makes American truly unique – we want and cherish religious conflict (within civil bounds) as we seek to live together with our different convictions.  We know we are better people for it and better people make a better nation.

    Sadly, some people are far more overt in their efforts to remove religion.

    This is ugly.  It is also what we seek to avoid on the national level.

    Fascinating Captain.

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    The Boston Globe Fires The First Volley, Ranking Republicans

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:03 am, July 6th 2010     &mdash      3 Comments »

    The Boston Globe has an almost pathological distaste for Mitt Romney.  So when I ran across this piece, headlined:

    Faith still sticky issue as Romney mulls run

    I expected the worst.  While there is little doubt in my mind that the Globe intended to stir up trouble on an issue that has been largely laying dormant of late, the piece itself is not pure hit piece, which is surprising.  There are a couple of good take-aways from it:

    “There are some people for whom it will not be settled,’’ Romney said in a recent interview. “That’s just the nature of who we are as a people: A lot of people have differing views.’’

    “You’re not really going to alter your main message to accommodate this tiny group,’’ said Carl Forti, who served as the campaign’s national political director. “You’re going to acknowledge that there’s this small group of people and move on.’’

    That acknowledgment is just one part of a growing consensus within Romney’s circle that his 2008 campaign’s almost obsessive focus on winning over social conservatives was not only unsuited to his strengths as a candidate, but strategically misguided.

    When I started with this blog, one of my motivations was that I knew if Evangelicals insisted on voting against Romney for reasons of faith that the net result would be the marginalization of those Evangelicals.  And that is what is implied by those paragraphs.  Should Romney run (very likely) and should he prevail (increasingly likely) this group of people will have punted any opportunity they have to have a voice in a Romney administration.  That’s a crying shame.

    The other interesting point is here:

    “The issue of religion was dealt with extensively in the last campaign, and there is nothing I or anyone else could add to the subject that would represent something new,’’ spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom said.

    [...]

    “I found that finally addressing it in a speech and drawing people’s attention to the fact that the nature of our country is one of religious pluralism was in my view a very effective way of bringing attention to this issue and settling it for the great majority of Americans,’’ said Romney.

    Now that is just American, and smart.  Romney, nor any candidate should embrace a religion on the political level.  Once that is done one has indeed stepped on the road to a government endorsed religion.  Rather, a candidate should have faith, or only with faith in a higher power can one be of sufficient character to handle the job, but it is a personal thing – not a political one.

    I think the team interviewed by the Globe is hinting at what I have thought ought to be the Romney religion strategy all along.  First, admit openly the differences between Mormonism and creedal Christianity.  When people pronounce Mormonism “unChristian” simply acknowledge that they are entitled to that opinion, and respectfully disagree.  Then embrace the diversity of religious practice in the nation, and acknowledge it as a strength both for the nation and for religion for both have flourished under the American system., unlike any other time in history.

    UPI picked up the Globe story and brought out one more quote that is worthy of discussion:

    “People’s prejudices change depending on the climate that the voting takes place in,” said Ron Kaufman, one of his advisers. “People clearly have a different set of important issues on the table.”

    Amen to that.  Romney can, and should, after the quick and courteous religion response we just discussed, change the subject.  Our nation stands on the brink of fiscal ruin and he is uniquely qualified to solve that particular issue.  Not to mention he is quite rightly making bold foreign policy statements as well.

    The resident Romneyphile at RightOSphere responded to the globe piece by quoting EFM.  That piece is great boosterism, but I think a little deeper analysis is needed.  The issue is real, and if this blog post from the NYTimes is any indication, it is not going to get easier:

    Just before the Memorial Day recess, an unlikely pair — Mark DeMoss, a publicist who was an adviser to Mitt Romney’s 2008 presidential campaign, and Lanny J. Davis, who served as an aide in the Clinton White House — wrote letters asking the 585 elected officials to sign a civility pledge.

    The letters, personalized and sent directly to each of the offices, asked officials to commit to this pledge: “I will be civil in my public discourse and behavior. I will be respectful of others whether or not I agree with them. I will stand against incivility when I see it.”

    More than a month later, only one lawmaker — Representative Frank R. Wolf, Republican of Virginia — has signed.

    Civility is, apparently a lot to ask for.  I am not surprised at this.  Politics is a bare-knuckle game, those that play at the highest levels play hard, and often play ugly.  What we really need to remember is how they play ugly.  Rarely does the candidate get uncivil – they have consultants and cut-outs and volunteers for that sort of thing.  From South Carolina whisper campaigns to “innocent” questions in interviews, the point is to appear civil while competing most uncivilly.

    If we had a press corps worth the name, then we might have civility.  Then we would have someone rooting out the connections and stripping away the veneer of civility – then it would no longer be a matter of mere appearance.  If you want to create civility in our system, that is the place to start. .

    Who Has Party Power?

    Chris Cillizza Says Romney #1 and Palin #2.  Not unreasonable, and Cillizza’s dropping of Mitch Daniels from his list of influentials is right on, but bringing the Huckster back – from one promotional appearance!?  Come on Chris! – you’re smarter than that.  Or did you miss the NYTimes piece that confirmed our analysis?  But what is really interesting is contrasting this with an AP piece on Palin:

    But Sid Dinerstein, GOP chairman in Florida’s Palm Beach County, is among those who love Palin.

    He has a signed picture of himself with her and argues that she was the only one of the four candidates in the 2008 election qualified to be president. Still, he doesn’t want her to run in two years.

    “She is currently the single most powerful political person in the country,” he said. “The day she announces for president, she gives that up.”

    That is pretty smart.  Office and power are not always, in fact often are not, the same thing.  Office, by its very nature and the construction of our constitution is about compromise and what can be done.  Power, on the other hand is about “rallying the troops.”  Power in office often comes from being the arbiter of those with real power, but it is indeed a derived power.

    Which reveals the flaws in this piece which also makes some wonderful points.  Our nation does not cope will with radical change – in any direction.  We have had some fairly radical lurches to the left, but never a lurch to the right, and with the exception of FDR, our radical lurches to the left have generally resulted in the bums getting thrown out – we just don’t like radicalism.  And our nation is designed to produce moderation and compromise.

    It must be remembered that we did not arrive in this state in large radical steps – but through decades of small increments, or in some cases of large steps from which we have incrementally withdrawn for an extended period.  So when it comes to undoing the worst of the current administrations programs, it just is not going to happen radically, but incrementally – nearly invisibly.

    So when it comes to picking candidates for 2012 the question is not who will undo, in one fell swoop, the policies of the Obama administration, but rather who can lessen their harmful impact and move us in a direction away from them.  If we move radically, our fate will be the same as his, and Carter before him.  If we move radically, we doom the nation to a series of violent swings between poles that would lead only to instability and a loss of prosperity.

    We need smart, not radical.

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